On Tuesday night’s WWE SmackDown Live episode, the pairing of AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura got to shine in the main event. It was “The King of Strong Style” aligning himself with “The Phenomenal One.” The two will be competitors at next month’s WWE pay-per-view but had to put any differences aside to face a heel duo of Dolph Ziggler and the WWE United States Champion Kevin Owens. For Shinsuke, it would mark his official debut on the WWE SmackDown Live program, after he made a main roster in-ring debut at Sunday’s WWE Backlash PPV.
As PWTorch reported on Tuesday evening, it was revealed that both Nakamura and Styles will be a part of the six-man field of competitors for the 2017 Money in the Bank ladder match. Joining them in the match will be “The Lone Wolf” Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, “The Showoff” Dolph Ziggler, and WWE United States Champion Kevin Owens. All six competitors competed in matches on the latest edition of SmackDown, with Corbin destroying Zayn earlier in the show, which resulted in Zayn being taken away via stretcher. The other four superstars would face off in a main event tag team match teaming Styles up with Nakamura.
During the SmackDown Live episode, Styles alluded to the fact that he and Nakamura go way back. The two are both former competitors within the ranks of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Styles made four appearances with NJPW in 2008 including a tag team bout where he and Hiroshi Tanashi took on Kurt Angle and Nakamura.
In January 2016, Styles challenged Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 10 back in the Tokyo Dome. Styles lost the match and had reportedly given his notice to the organization the same morning, ending his time there.
Fast forward to tonight’s WWE SmackDown main event and it made history as the first time that the two wrestling stars teamed up for a match. It also provided Nakamura with another way to increase his popularity with fans who may be unfamiliar with him from NXT or his previous work from the other organizations.
The first-time pairing worked in a match that lasted over 25 minutes to close out the SmackDown show on Tuesday night, according to ProWrestling. During that time, the heels were able to isolate Nakamura for a good portion of the match. Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler took turns working over the “King of Strong Style” and made sure he couldn’t get near his corner for a tag to AJ Styles.
However, after a commercial break, Owens yelled for Dolph to get some revenge on Nakamura for what happened at Backlash. Ziggler made a charging move towards Shinsuke in the corner with Nakamura moving away. After Dolph hit the ring post shoulder-first, it allowed for his opponent to make the hot tag to bring in AJ.
Styles was able to gain control against Ziggler for a good bit of time until the wily Owens distracted AJ from outside the ring. After a move, Ziggler was able to tag in his heel partner and they began to run the double team on Styles now. It wasn’t until a bit later that AJ was finally able to hit a facebuster on Ziggler and break away for the big tag to Nakamura again.
The grand finale of the match featured Nakamura able to get the upper hand on Owens and hit a roundhouse kick for a pinfall. Ziggler rushed in for the typical breakup move to help out, and chaos ensued. AJ Styles got involved and hit a Styles Clash on Kevin Owens. Ziggler hit a Superkick on Styles, but Nakamura hit a leg dropkick on Ziggler to take him out. Moments later, Shinsuke delivered his finishing move, a running knee known as “Kinshasa,” which planted Owens on the mat for the pinfall.
After the win, Nakamura’s music played as the crowd celebrated and he posed in the ring. AJ Styles stood on the ring corner facing inwards toward his tag partner and applauded for him while pointing to him to play up his win to the crowd. However, it was shortly after that the two tag partners came face to face in the middle of the ring with the Money in the Bank briefcase hanging overhead.
There have been ongoing rumors that these two stars will ultimately meet one another at next year’s WrestleMania 34. It should be interesting to see their interactions going forward, as they will both be involved in that MITB ladder match. Not only that, with Nakamura pinning the U.S. Champion, one might think he could make a claim for a title shot as others have done in the past when pinning a champion. Nonetheless, Nakamura is now 2-0 in his first few main roster matches, although it appears it may take a bit more time to establish his talents with fans that aren’t so familiar with him.
WWE fans, what do you think of Shinsuke Nakamura’s first two matches with the main roster? Will he be the winner for the Money in the Bank ladder match?
[Featured Image by WWE]